Best Motorcycles For Touring in the Himalayas of Leh Ladakh
Today we are going into the charts with another countdown featuring some of the greatest, toughest and, of course, the best motorcycles you can own right now for your upcoming Himalayan motorcycle tours in the Leh Ladakh region.
And no matter how treacherous these regions may be, these motorcycles can traverse through them all without a hitch. And that, in a nutshell, is the basis for today’s rundown.
So, we will be looking at all the motorcycles that can ride through the trails, climb the tallest peaks, and zip through the most desolate water crossings without sacrificing riding comfort or pleasure. And as much as we would love to list high-end motorcycles, a practical thing to do was to come up with a list that included both premium as well as low-priced options.
So, without further ado, here we go.
Best Motorcycles For Ladakh (Himalayas) Road Trip
BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
The first recommendation and the most ideal motorcycle not only for the treacherous regions of Ladakh, but for every conceivable terrain is the BMW R 1250 GS: A flagship model from the makers of BMW Motorrad.
So, while there are many reasons why we chose this motorcycle, the primary driver is its sheer responsiveness over any kind of terrain. And if you consider the size of this motorcycle: standing 57 inches in overall height and 35 inches in saddle, you certainly won’t have any second thoughts about its capabilities to cross the high mountain peaks of Ladakh.
Best of all, even though this machine is quite huge, its sheer balance is simply outstanding. With a weight of just under 268 kilograms (curb weight), the overall distribution of mass is perfectly balanced, allowing you to keep it upright even when stationary.
And if you do take a tumble, which perhaps occurs with one out of every five riders in Ladakh, the protective bars around the bodywork absorb the entire impact and prevent scratches to the main frame.
Speaking of the engine, a 6-speed 1254cc 4-stroke flat twin engine with a double overhead camshaft produces a whooping 136 horses of power at 7,750 RPM and 143 NMs of peak torque at 6,250 RPM.
Moreover, it has an integrated ABS Pro with inclination-optimized technology, dual front disc brakes and single rear disc brakes, 3 riding modes to choose from depending on the weather, state-of-the-art Telelever front suspension, Hill Start Control as well as Dynamic Traction Control to give you all the grip you are looking for while riding in the treacherous regions.
Altogether, considering its price-performance ratio, the R 1250 GS from BMW is a well-suited machine (and the best one of course) for your upcoming adventure in the Himalayas!
Base Price: $20,345
Triumph Tiger 1200
Second in line is the Tiger 1200 from Triumph Motorcycles featuring a 1160cc 3-cylinder engine. This revamped motorcycle incorporates a new cylinder head, an improved clutch mechanism, a 6-speed transmission and a T-plane crankshaft with 180, 270 and 270 firing order that are common with the Triumph 900s. Thus, allowing for more mid-range thrust and a more effective, more even power delivery with a significant increase in performance.
As for the technical specs, the motorcycle outputs a maximum of 148 horsepower (110.4 kW at 9,000 RPM) and 130 Newton meters of peak torque at 7,000 RPM, which, by the way, is 12 horses more than the GS we discussed above.
But in order to ensure that it can reach out to BMW’s fan base, Triumph presented the Tiger 1200 in a total of five different variants.
So, in addition to the three street-oriented models, the GT, GT Pro and GT Explorer with cast wheels, the two off-road adventure models, the Rally Pro and Rally Explorer, feature 21 x 2.15-inch and 18 x 4.25-inch cross-spoke wheels at the front and rear.
Moreover, these two variants feature a 30-liter fuel tank instead of 20 liters used on the GT, GT Pro and GT Explorer.
Coming to the latest advancements, you will notice a change in weight compared to the previous generations. And although the older version had an unbeatable reputation as a dependable and comfortable touring bike, it was designed for heavier or more bulky riders.
This reduction in weight (nearly 5.4 kilograms was saved on the frame, 1.5 kilograms through the new Tri-Link cardan swingarm, etc.) allowed riders with short stature or those with a slender built to comfortably maneuver around in the mountains.
Altogether, weighing a mere 261 kilograms, this Tiger 1200 is just about right for traversing in the region of Ladakh.
Base Price: $23,100
Honda Africa Twin Adventure
The Africa Twin Adventure is designed to make you look like an explorer. It’s as capable as it can be, yet is as friendly as anyone should be. And since its rebirth, it has become one of the best-looking adventure touring motorcycles, outperforming any other tourer in its class.
But we are not just recommending this bike simply by looking at the brochure, truth be told, we have been die-hard fans of this motorcycle since its inception in 1989 (with the original Honda XRV750).
Capable of producing 102 horses of power, the powertrain is a real package that gets from 0 to 100 Km/h in record time. In doing so, it unleashes all its strength in a confident yet controlled manner – depending on the setting of the riding modes (Tour, Urban, Gravel, Off-Road, User 1 and User 2).
And thanks to its 270-degree phase crank, you get a performance that’s second to none and very easy to modulate, particularly while off-roading, where going gets tough. Then again, as we mentioned, the new model, which has been greatly improved, features enhanced cornering ABS, three-stage wheelie control, and seven-stage selectable torque control. What’s more to ask?
Speaking of specs, you get a liquid-cooled, two-cylinder, four-stroke, in-line engine with four valves per cylinder (SOHC) coupled to a 6-speed dual-clutch manual transmission. To elaborate these technicalities for a noob rider: It is a big, powerful motorcycle that, unlike some of its competitors, doesn’t feel too intimidating.
As far as suspension goes, you get a 45mm telescopic fork up front with 9.1 inches of travel, which is complemented by a Pro-Link® system at the rear offering 8.7-inches of travel.
Most importantly, it offers a saddle height of 33.5 inches (standard position 34.3 inches) on a narrow geometry enabling even shorter riders (under 5′7″) to maneuver around comfortably on the trails.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and what we really mean is that with the Africa Twin Adventure, you bring home a motorcycle that can do pretty much everything.
Base Price: $14,499
BMW F 850 GS
The fourth recommendation we have is once again from the makers of BMW, but this time in a slightly smaller displacement. So, while we agree that the R 1250 GS Adventure is one of the ultimate motorcycles to go pretty much anywhere you want, and it’s also probably the most comfortable machine on two wheels, but it comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
So, if you’re looking for an affordable alternative, the F-850, the younger sibling of the 1250 GS, certainly qualifies.
But that is not the only good thing about this bike. With recent improvements, for example, its newly developed 853cc liquid-cooled parallel twin-cylinder engine delivering 90 HP of power and 85 Nm of torque is truly astonishing. Plus, the redesigned fuel tank now sits in front of the rider, contributing to even better performance. Even the seating position is as comfortable as can be, with a touch of sportiness – bringing the best of both worlds!
As for the stopping power, there are two 305mm floating disc brakes at the front and a single 265mm disc with a single-piston floating caliper at the rear. While the transmission features an upside-down telescopic fork at the front and a hydraulically adjustable dual swingarm with adjustable preload and damping at the rear.
And just like the 1250 GS, this F 850 has a range of riding modes (Road and Rain) as well as ASC (Automatic Stability Control). And in case you desire even more, you can opt for Pro riding modes like adjustable DTC (Dynamic traction control) or ABS Pro as well as Dynamic ESA suspension, keyless ride, heated grips, cruise control and Shift Assist Pro as an addon.
All in all, the F 850 GS is a solid choice and a great intermediate bike for those who wish to enter into the world of adventure riding.
Base Price: $12,595
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT
As a motorcycle enthusiast, there is nothing better you can imagine than riding amidst beautiful mountains and spectacular landscapes. And to make this dream possible, there is one motorcycle that puts out everything it has to turn this dream into reality.
Indeed, the first thing that catches your eye on the new Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is its aerodynamic beak on the front fairing, positioned just below the headlight. While the second thing that will surely grab your attention is its multi-reflector dual headlamp and the contrasting black plastic parts underneath, which surprisingly doesn’t resonate with any off-road machine at all.
However, beneath this body is a liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC 90° V-twin engine with a displacement of 645cc that delivers a whopping 70 HP of power and 62 Nm of peak torque, perfect for an unobtrusive touring in the mountains of Ladakh.
Coming to the specifications; it features a conventional telescopic fork with adjustable spring preload at the front and a link type single shock absorber with adjustable spring preload at the rear.
The required braking power is provided by twin disc coupled along two-piston calipers at the front and a single disc coupled along a single-piston caliper at the rear. As for the tires, the V-Strom 650 XT relies on tubeless 110/80R19 at the front and 150/70R17 at the rear.
And thanks to its 20-liter tank, you can relish the performance of this motorcycle without frequent interruptions, as it offers a range of well over 400 kilometers.
In other words, if you are among those who simply wish to have fun, this V-Strom won’t be averse in coming along with you.
Altogether, V-Strom 650 XT has all the off-road features you need for venturing into the mountains, and thanks to the switchable traction control, you can really let yourself loose while exploring undiscovered regions of Ladakh.
Base Price: $9,399
Royal Enfield Himalayan
Introduced in 2016 with the aim of traversing through the Himalayas, the Royal Enfield Himalayan is an absolute wonder. But if you don’t believe us, ask anyone who has ever visited Ladakh to name the most common motorcycle found in the region.
And although the engine only delivers a peak power of 24.3 horses, this compact machine whisks you away from all fears the moment you hit the trails in the mountains.
But keep one thing in mind: It’s not a high-speed machine, but something to be enjoyed as you roam around the beautiful landscapes of the Himalayas. And while you might struggle to overtake a truck on a steep incline, it’s the stress-free riding that the makers in particular have focused on.
For instance; the 31.4-inch-high saddle coupled with perfectly positioned footpegs and wide handlebars contribute to a comfortable ride even if you are standing upright on the bike. Plus, the newly designed front rack and rear luggage rack keeps your goods securely in place. On top of that, the all-new Tripper Navigation System keeps a check on your course while the extra padding over the seat allows you to ride longer while ensuring complete ease.
This single-cylinder 411cc motorcycle has countless fans across the globe, and in India particularly, where Royal Enfield is a cult. Intended primarily for the Indian market, this touring enduro is therefore kept very affordable.
In short, the Royal Enfield Himalayan is a comfortable, rugged, versatile, reliable and practical machine for an adventurous motorcycle tour of Ladakh. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how you will feel after a short ride: It is an absolutely unpretentious, straightforward and down-to-earth bike at its best.
Base Price: $4,999
KTM 390 Adventure
Some of you might have already reached out to a conclusion by now, but in case you are still unsure which motorcycle you should consider for your upcoming expedition, take a look at the 390 Adventure from the house of KTM.
So, the first thing you will notice just by looking at this motorcycle is its seating position and the level of control it provides you. It has a tall riding stance along with wide handlebars that gives you a feel of big, powerful motorcycle. Then again, its sleek geometry allows for comfortable maneuvers around tight turns, while its lightweight body (155 kg) allows you to whiz past the wind with absolute ease.
With an output of 43 HP at 9,500 RPM, this liquid-cooled single-cylinder motorcycle is an exceptionally agile machine. So much so that you almost forget that the power comes from just 373cc engine. At the same time, this small engine revs up not only easily, but also with little vibrations. And thanks to a top speed of 160 km/h and a maximum torque of 37 Newton meters, overtaking or riding uphill is a piece of cake.
Needless to say, riding downhill on tight curves is an absolute joy.
As for the technicalities, it incorporates a two-way adjustable USD fork, cornering ABS, traction control, Quickshifter, LED lamps and a well-designed TFT display offering an integrated connection for smartphones leaving absolutely nothing to be wished for!
In fact, you won’t find some of these features even on a much larger and considerably more expensive motorcycle. Even the fuel tank is quite big – 14.5 liters, allowing you to ride almost 300 kilometers before hitting reserve. And thanks to the upholstery and seat design, this 390 Adventure is ideal for tours lasting several days.
Base Price: $6,599
BMW G 310 GS
If you are familiar with the adventure tourer segment, then you likely know how intimidating they can be for a novice rider. And if we put aside the high displacement figure, their tall seat height might alone be a reasonable justification for a shorter rider to consider alternatives. Lo and behold, for we have good news!
Presenting the G 310 GS, an entry-level adventure tourer under 500cc from BMW that is both versatile and rugged enough for any riding style.
Equipped with a 313cc single-cylinder, four-valve engine and dual overhead camshafts (DOHC), the G 310 GS delivers a respectable 34 horses of power with a maximum torque of 28 Nm at 7,500 RPM. And with the introduction of Ride by Wire technology, you get a much more responsive throttle that is much more forgiving to novice riders.
In addition, its multi-disc (anti-hopping) clutch with self-reinforcement is designed to reduce the engine’s lag, which can often be experienced during braking maneuvers with simultaneous downshifting, thereby improving rideability.
Moreover, its standard 33-inch seat height is befitting, and so is its road ready weight of just 175 kilograms. And to make it even more comfortable for shorter riders, the position of the footpegs allows the knees to be relaxed without being obtrusive.
Then again, if you like speed, you won’t be disappointed either: With a top speed of 143 km/h and a fuel range of over 300 kilometers on a full tank of gas (11 liters), nothing is left to chance on this masterpiece.
In fact, all the mechanical parts utilized are of high quality, something you can actually sense while riding in the treacherous terrain. And we guarantee that nothing will creak or feel odd while you enjoy the ride of your lifetime. Plus, as is common with BMW, there are plenty of accessories available that you can use to jazz up your ride to your liking.
And while these original accessories may cost a bit, the overall price for this motorcycle is quite decent, which is particularly helpful for young enthusiasts who usually don’t have a lot of money to spare.
Base Price: $5,695
Hero XPulse 200
As a final recommendation, we present to you the XPulse 200 4V from Hero Moto Corp, which, by the way, is the most affordable option for touring in Ladakh.
First launched in 2019, the XPulse has always been one of the most interesting motorcycles primarily designed for off-road use. In fact, with a price tag of less than $2,500, there is nothing quite as off-road capable as this one in this range. Besides, if you are really passionate about this motorcycle, you can also opt for the limited-edition rally model.
Moving on to the specs, you get a 199cc oil-cooled 4-stroke powertrain with four valves (hence the name 4V), which gives the engine more room to breathe, ultimately resulting in more torque and better throttle response throughout the rev range. Consequently, the engine generates as much as 17.8 HP at 8,500 RPM and 16.45 Nm of peak torque at 6,500 RPM.
And thanks to its lightweight body (157 kilograms), riding across the trails at relatively high speed is a piece of cake, and even on the plains, speeding over 100 km/h is effortless. Best of all, if you want to cruise amidst beautiful panoramas, this XPulse 200 will definitely make you happy.
As for the suspension, up front there is a regular long-travel telescopic fork (with double DU bushings & 190mm of stroke) while out back there is a 10-step adjustable Monoshock.
In addition, you get a big 21-inch tire up front (90/90-21) and an 18-inch tire out back (120/80-18) that pretty much rolls over anything. Also, the stopping power is derived from a 276mm brake disc with single-channel ABS up front and a 220mm disc at the rear.
Simply put, the XPulse 200 4V may be the least expensive motorcycle on our list, but it performs just as well off the road as some of the most expensive ones featured here.
Base Price: $2,200
Regardless of what you choose, always remember to prioritize agility over aesthetics. And while we agree that it is sometimes hard to keep your hands off something that’s really pleasing to the eye, a motorcycle should deliver exactly what you are looking for.
After all, there is no better feeling than cruising through the mountains with as little fuss as possible. And in order to be able to enjoy this elation without compromise, comfort should also play an important role in the pre-selection process, in addition to agility, which is primarily characterized by smooth handling.
This brings us to the end of this article and we hope that you were able to make your decision. If you still have any doubts, do not hesitate to contact us at any time.
Take care and all the best!
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